I thought you might find it interesting to read the actual e-mail sent to me by the owner describing her dogs issues and what we did to resolve the problem.
I have two Cocker Spaniels, both girls who haven’t been spayed. Rosie is 8years old and Libby is 2 years.
I have had both dogs from puppies.
This has never been a problem before but recently the older dog Rosie growls as soon as the younger one goes near and it then develops into a fight and is very distressing. I got bitten the last time trying to separate them.
My vet and other people tell me I will need to re-home one of the dogs but I can’t do that. I love them both and couldn’t bear to loose one of them although I know it would probably be kinder.”
The Solution we put in place
When I went out to see the dogs and owner in their home environment it was very obvious to me that Libby in particular was doing what she wanted in the house. She would race past Rosie to get out the door first, She would jump up on the settee before Rosie, the owner had to stand between the dogs at feeding time or Libby (who wolfed her food down) would rush over to Rosie and try to get her food.
Contrary to what most owners think, when their dogs show aggression, these dogs did not hate one another. They used to play happily together. Something had gone wrong.
In this case the younger dog (Libby) had matured and was challenging the older dog for the lead position in the house hold. Rosie was not prepared to let Libby take charge so she had been warning her for months by growling and eventually this escalated into regular fights.
This is classic pack behaviour whether in a domestic situation or in the wild Depending on the temperament of the animal if they think the top job is vacant they will challenge for leadership. (The majority of dogs of the same sex live harmoniously together but on occasions different temperaments can produce rivalry)
Rosie was simply putting the younger dog in its place and she needed support from the owner.
Rules and boundaries were put in place. Lots of one to one work was done with Libby and she responded well She was taught not to jump on people and furniture. She learnt to wait behind the owner going in and out of doors, We did lots of basic focus exercises where she had to give eye contact and respond to the owners commands. Both dogs were fed separately.
Libby started to see that the owner was taking control and the top job was filled ! She calmed right down and became a much happier dog. Her temperament meant she was never a natural leader anyway.
Rosie saw she had support from her owner and did not need to chastise Libby again so severely, a little growl occasionally was all that was needed.
The owner of these dogs was committed to keeping her dogs together and worked very hard at changing how she handled them. It was not always easy and took a bit of time but both dogs now live happily together and the owner knows she must retain the ‘top job’ in the household.